Mendocino County Today: July 26, 2013

by AVA News Service, July 25, 2013

BACK IN 2011, the Mendo Board of Supervisors discussed logging the 57 County-owned acres 
of timber near the Little River Airport. It was a long discussion, a very long discussion, centered around whether the timber market would produce
 enough revenue to justify doing the paperwork and associated planning.
 Supervisor John Pinches specifically said that if the paperwork was going
 to cost over $30k, and the expected revenue from the job was only about $100k, it wasn’t
 worth it; Pinches thought maybe the timber market would improve in a year or 
two. Pinches has experience in the timber business, and the board in 2011 deferred to his expertise and voted unanimously to postpone the logging.

ALSO DURING that 2011 discussion John Sakowicz read into the record a 
letter from Fort Bragg forester Tom Kisliuk who complained that the forester the County had selected,
 a Mr. Roger Sternberg, wasn’t experienced in 
actual logging administration and was charging the County too much for the 
paperwork. Kisliuk had written that the County had selected a forester who 
had never written an approved NTMP (non-industrial timber management plan) 
or administered a Notice of Timber Operations or a Harvest Plan. “The 
forester is not experienced nor the most economical choice,” concluded
 Sakowicz in 2011. “Perhaps the competition was not to hire the most 
experienced or most economical forester, but to hire a colleague of the
 County’s extension forester who, like the winning candidate, has never
 written an approved timber harvest plan or administered an NTO. … I wonder 
if more valuable contracts are awarded based on personal relationships 
rather than producing the best result for the client, the Mendocino County 
taxpayers.”

IN 2011 THE BOARD didn’t address the specific merits of Mr. Kisliuk’s
 complaint, but they did vote unanimously to postpone the logging until the 
timber market improved.

NOW, two years later, the Little River logging job has come back on the
 Board’s radar. But the last round of paperwork is no longer
 current and, at a minimum, another round of bird surveys will have to be
 done, which will involve additional time and cost. Other plan updates are
 also required, such as an estimate of the value of the merchantable timber
 that might result.

ACCORDING to Mr. Kisliuk the problems he described in 2011 are still
 unaddressed. Mr. Sternberg has apparently been hired on a “time and
 materials” basis to update the paperwork but, says Kisliuk, Sternberg was
not the low bidder — Mr. Kisliuk was. Mr. Kisliuk insists that he has more
 experience with NTMPs and the other logging experience that Mr. Sternberg 
doesn’t have. So why didn’t he get the job?

AS FAR AS WE CAN TELL, Mr. Sternberg’s specialty is conservation
 easements. He’s a registered professional forester but available on-line 
references show that he’s closely associated with local land trusts and
with County Forest Advisor Greg Giusti.

MR. KISLIUK has complained about the recent awarding of the contract to
 Mr. Sternberg to both General Services Director Kristin McMenomey and
 Deputy County Counsel Doug Losak, both of whom offered only perfunctory
responses, saying there was nothing amiss in the bidding process. Mr. Losak confirmed that the contract award process included the two men Kisliuk says are friends or colleagues of Sternberg: “Mendocino County 
General Services Agency (GSA) enlisted the assistance of Steve Smith,
Registered Professional Forester to be a member of the evaluation
 panel. GSA also requested the presence of Greg Guisti, Registered
Professional Forester to be in attendance while the panel reviewed
 the responses. Mr. Guisti did not participate in the ranking of the
 responses received, he was in attendance to answer any questions.”

MR. KISLIUK says his recent bid was a “not-to-exceed” bid of $10,000 which 
would be substantially lower than Mr. Sternberg’s, especially considering 
that a good portion of the paperwork has already been done. In
 addition, back in 2011 when the Board last discussed the logging project, Supervisor Pinches, the Board’s go-to guy when the subject is 
logging, said, “If we’re going to spend 30% of our estimated value [$100k]
 on this I think we ought to just drop this whole proposal. That’s way
 outtaline. I was thinking around maybe $8-10k.” By “30%” Pinches was 
referring to the estimated $30k that Giusti et al had mentioned based on
 the work being performed by Sternberg. That number will now increase
 because additional planning and paperwork must be prepared because of 
the two years having elapsed.

IT SEEMS to us that Mr. Kisliuk has again raised legitimate questions about the bidding 
process and the amount of money being spent on the logging plan preparation, not to mention the implication of a palsy-walsy hiring process. Certainly, it’s not Mr. Sternberg’s fault that the job was 
postponed so long that the bird surveys have to be re-done — the postponement was a
 Board decision. At the time they hoped to re-submit a plan early enough 
that the surveys would still be current. But that didn’t happen and now the County is going through the process again with some of the same
 questions about how it’s done and who’s doing it.

A COUPLE WEEKS ago, during a brief discussion of the Little River Logging
 project status, the Board directed CEO Carmel Angelo to report back to 
them about the scheduling of the project in light of the expired bird
surveys and the current value of the timber. No date was given for when
Ms. Angelo would report back, but presumably it will be soon.

THERE ARE OTHER QUESTIONS, TOO. In 2011 there was some suspicion that some 
of the trees were diseased. If 
that wasn't addressed, the timber value may be even less now, two years 
later. Mr. Kisliuk says there’s some old growth in the vicinity that is 
probably important bird habitat which should be specifically excluded from 
logging but which has not been discussed so far. And in the past Kisliuk 
has said that Mr. Sternberg doesn’t have enough actual logging experience 
to properly assess the current commercial value of the available timber.

AT A MINIMUM, there would appear to be several good reasons for the Board
 to revisit the Little River Logging project, including a close look at all
 the latest bids to make sure the best interests of the County are met.

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COUPLA WEEKS AGO we bought some chicks, having fed 11 of 20 of our adult hens to the larger predators which, we think now, is probably a fox. Something has been getting in the pen occasionally for going on two years now. Soon as we think we’ve got it critter-proof, there goes another chicken.

WE PUT the new chicks in what we thought was a secure enclosure and, overnight, several of the popcorn-size chicks and another hen were murdered in their sleep. And not eaten. The creature that did it was a thrill killer.

WE INITIALLY suspected a rehabbed feral cat, Newman, that we adopted two years ago from a Ukiah rescue center. Maybe Newman wasn’t fully rehabbed. Maybe he wanted to see if his old survival skills were still viable, and had somehow heaved his great bulk over the fence and into the pen. But Newman’s general sloth, his odd fear of adult chickens in the daytime, and his regular meals seemed to exclude Newman as the culprit. One afternoon, as a gopher dug a hole literally in front of his face, Newman took one look and dozed off. Any other cat would have immediately launched into full pounce mode. I can’t believe he’d go to all the trouble to knock off a bunch of two week-old chickens just for the thrill of it.

I’VE HAD chickens before, and I’ve lived in Boonville for a long time. In all my rural years I’d never heard of a chicken-killing cat, but it isn’t often a topic of conversation even in the outback. Most rural people simply build their chicken coops as invincible as they can and hope for the best. A civit cat wiped out three successive flocks of mine once. That was years ago, but I finally caught him in the act.

IF A FOX, even a proverbial one, got into the henhouse, wouldn’t he chow down once he was in? All our other chicken fatalities had been consumed, or at least partially consumed. Until last week, when a rat dog drove a fox out of his well-hidden little lair across the fence, the only known chicken killers on the place were possums and skunks, and neither of them or any of their relatives had been seen in months.

SO I WROTE to Petite Teton, the thriving little farm out Yorkville way. Of farming necessity, Petite Teton battles everything from the elements, to wild critters, to the Mendocino County Health Department. Nikki said she thought a feral cat or a reformed feral cat could not be eliminated from the suspect pool. She said she’d heard of bears, foxes and weasels supposedly killing for fun but had no experience with these creatures. Petite Teton’s problem, she said, is “more mundane: bobcats. We've live-trapped and deported five of them this month, but only after they killed ten of our chickens. They work both at night and in the daytime, and since we interrupted the killings each time (two chickens per kill), they didn't get to eat their victims. But it meant we had fresh killed chicken to butcher five different times right at our dinnertime. Very upsetting and exhausting. The cats are beautiful and were every age from baby to grandpa/ma.”

OUR PLACE is more of a neighborhood. Bobcats might wander through, but we’ve never seen any signs of them. There’s fox scat all over the place, all over Anderson Valley, in fact. You can hear them everywhere if you’re up at 3am.

PETITE TETON has the heaviest concentration of bobcats I’ve heard of in The Valley, but I’ve seldom seen them except deep in the hills, and on those occasions only once did I get a good look at one before he shot off into the underbrush. I think the fox has been getting our chickens, which he sometimes eats, sometimes doesn’t eat. We’ve beefed up the pen. Again. And hope for the best.

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CHP ARRESTS JOURNALIST TO STOP NEWS OF PROTEST

(San Jose Mercury-News Editorial)

There's a battle of wills taking place in Willits, where Caltrans has begun construction on a highway bypass around this small Mendocino County town. The bypass diverting Highway 101 has its supporters and its detractors, including a small group of protesters who have made it their mission to disrupt the construction at every opportunity.

On Tuesday, the protesters snuck onto the construction site early in the morning once again — but the only person arrested was the photographer for The Willits News, the twice-weekly local newspaper, who was there to document the latest protest.

This is clearly a tactic to discourage protesters by keeping them out of the news. It's actually an acknowledgment of Caltrans' and California Highway Patrol incompetence at controlling what happens at the site. It's wrong and it's got to stop.

The protesters cite the environmental damage they believe the construction is wreaking on the valley, its wetlands and natural beauty. They also say $200 million is too high a price for the relatively small amount of traffic that will be diverted. But Caltrans has been planning this bypass for two decades to relieve the backups on Willits streets, which the locals generally acknowledge is a serious problem.

The protests began in January to stop the initial tree clearing. They have included tree sitters, crane sitters and people chaining themselves to construction equipment. A few have been arrested. Others disperse when told to, but they always come back. The CHP has spent at least $1 million trying to keep protesters off the construction site. It has failed miserably, so it has apparently decided to try arresting or harassing members of the media who show up to cover the protests.

StephenEberhardSteve Eberhard, a longtime freelance photographer for the Willits News, was arrested early Tuesday as he approached the area where some protesters had chained themselves to construction equipment and others stood nearby. None of the protesters had been arrested, but as soon as Eberhard showed up he was cuffed and led away, his camera equipment taken from him.

The media has been told that unless members have a Caltrans escort, they are trespassing on the site. But Caltrans only provides escorts during “regular business hours” and sometimes not even then -- especially if there's something worth photographing. The CHP, meanwhile, has told protesters that when a journalist shows up, the first arrest will be the media, presumably so that the protests will go undocumented -- as if anyone with a smart phone isn't a photographer these days. The CHP has harassed journalists even when they have a Caltrans escort and even when they're in in a public right of way near the site.

And just for the record, Eberhard is a senior citizen, a retiree and a veteran. He has press credentials, including one from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office. And because Willits is in a rural and isolated area, Eberhard is just about the only visual journalist chronicling the project. Appearances by TV crews or metro area print photographers are rare.

Eberhard has been cited for trespassing. We are glad to hear the district attorney will likely dismiss the charge, as he's done for other first-time offenders in the protests -- but this dismissal is necessary: The trespass law exempts people who "are engaging in activities protected by the California or United States Constitution," which Eberhard clearly was as a journalist covering a protest.

The protests are going to continue. Trying to keep the media away is pointless and self-defeating. .

The CHP is normally more professional than this. When did arresting the messenger become a good way to stop crime? Let's try ending the incompetence, and the news won't look so bad.

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THE GOVERNMENT has poured unprecedented amounts of money into the economy in an attempt to get it moving. It's done that through “quantitative easing,” which involves buying back its own bonds using money that doesn't actually exist. It's like borrowing money from somebody and then paying them back with a piece of paper on which you've written the word “Money” — and then, magically, it turns out that the piece of paper with “Money” on it is real money.

Money(Note: don't try this.) Another way of describing quantitative easing would be that it is as if, when you look up your bank balance online, you had the additional ability to add to it just by typing numbers on your keyboard. Ordinary people can't do this, obviously, but governments can; they can use this newly created magic money to buy back their own debt. That's what quantitative easing is. — John Lanchester

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AVA RULES!

(Yadira Mendoza updates us on the success of the AVA-sponsored women’s softball team!)

AVASoftballGood Morning. Here’s a team picture from last night’s playoff games. We won third place and had a fun season. Thank you for your sponsorship; our team appreciates being able to play every summer, thanks to your donation. Pictured from left to right: Jenna Walker, Aimee Summit-Yates, Ruby Peña, Ana Carrillo, Rebekah Toohey, Yadira Mendoza, Mimi Mendoza, Amanda Hiatt, Kayla Garcia, Tiffany Gibson, Marika Martinez. Jeremy Yates and Jamie Silva are our base coaches. (Not pictured: Maia Leon-Guerrero)

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JIMMY CARTER has revealed that he received the most assassination threats since leaving office of any former president. The one-term Democrat said that he has been the subject of up to three legitimate assassination attempts since he left the White House in January 1981. The details of the assassination plots were not released, but Mr. Carter described them as being domestic in nature, meaning that the would-be killers were American. Adding to security concerns about the former president, he has been particularly active since leaving office and regularly travels abroad, to North Korea, Africa, and the Middle East. “When I go on an overseas trip almost invariably, I get a report from the Secret Service that where I'm going is very dangerous,” the former President told author Larry Sabato, according to The Washington Examiner. “Sometimes they [the Secret Service] ask me not to go, and I go anyway. They and I both just laugh about it. So I have been more concerned about my safety in doing the Carter Center's business overseas than I ever was in the White House.” No information was released about any known threats against former President Clinton's life or that of either former Bush presidents. President Obama made history in 2007 when as a Senator he was the first presidential candidate to receive Secret Service protection before formally becoming his party's nominee because there were a number of threats against him based on race. Carter, 89, made the revelation about his safety procedures while meeting with Mr. Sabato as part of his research for a book on the legacy of President John F. Kennedy. As for his own legacy, Carter's public image has largely been shaped in recent years by the work he did since leaving the White House. He founded the eponymous Carter Center to address human rights issues across the globe, working to help eradicate diseases like trachoma and Guinea worm disease globally. Carter even won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for the effort he put into finding 'peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advancing democracy and human rights. He is the first and only American president to receive the distinguished award after his term in office.

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LEAST HONEST PLACE IN AMERICA: WASHINGTON DC.

HonestyMapPeople in Washington DC are by far the most dishonest in America, according to a new study, while their cousins in Hawaii and Alabama are basically saints. Beverage company Honest Tea went to every US state earlier this month and set up 61 unmanned kiosks offering tea for $1. Tea drinkers were instructed to place their buck in a box nearby. But only eight in 10 beverage guzzlers in the nation's capital paid for their tea, while the other 20% of people skipped out on the minimal amount. The other states where you should hold on to your purse were West Virginia where only 85% of participants paid for their tea, followed by Texas and Kentucky at 87%. In comparison, everyone in Hawaii and Alabama paid up without exception. Indiana and Maine followed closely behind, with some 99% proving to be honest, according to the company's fifth annual test. This year, however, was the first year every state has been represented. Unlike the city that shares its name, Washington state seemed to honor it's Founding Father's sentiment, scoring 96% — considerably higher than the national average of 92%. 'Even though my bicycle was stolen the same day as our DC experiment, it's reassuring to know that 92% of Americans will do the right thing even when it seems no one is watching,' Honest Tea co-founder Seth Goldman said. New York ranked in the middle of the pack at 91%, which was better than people expected. California tied with New Jersey, with a score of 96%. The results also determined which sex was more honest than the other and women slightly edged out men with a score of 95% compared to 91%.

(Courtesy, the London Daily Mail)

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I MUST GET HOME

I am breathless with fear somewhere deep

though I am not fearful to where you can see.

I am perhaps in that state we parse as sleep

but not sleep. Divine but not as such divinity.

Don’t listen. I won’t speak. We’re even. Feel

your way with that soft sense you can’t name.

It’s a lost art or a lost world or maybe not real.

It’s the flag you plant on land you’ll never claim.

You were saying but I wasn’t listening oh hell

and I should have been I am so terribly me.

I must get home to set table, ring dinner bell,

eat alone, be courageous, for a small infinity.

— Lawrence Bullock

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THE 31ST ANNUAL ROUND VALLEY BLACKBERRY FESTIVAL will be held this year on August 17th and 18th at the festival grounds in downtown Covelo. Mickey the Clown will be back as Master of Ceremonies and will kick off the festivities at noon on Saturday with various musical groups playing throughout the entire weekend. Enjoy a blackberry slush while strolling around the surrounding arbor which will be full of numerous arts and craft vendors and community organizations. Saturday night join the community for a fun square dance. There will be a 5/10K run/walk on Sunday morning (http://www.roundvalley.org/library/race.pdf) followed by a country style breakfast. Later in the day enjoy the motorcycle and antique car show featuring local, and out of town, vehicles worth seeing. The festival runs from noon to 7pm on Saturday and 10am to 5pm on Sunday. Admission is free. Further information can be found at www.roundvalleyblackberryfestival.com.

— Sharon Durall

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